Carnegie Mellon University
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The Acquisition of Case-Marking by Adult Learners of Russian and German.

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journal contribution
posted on 1998-12-01, 00:00 authored by Vera Kempe, Brian MacwhinneyBrian Macwhinney
This study investigated the acquisition of overt morphological case by adult native speakers of English who were learning Russian or German as a second language (L2). The Russian casemarking system is more complex than the German system; but it almost always provides the listener with case inflections that are reliable cues to sentence interpretation. Two approaches to learning of inflectional morphology were contrasted: the rule-based approach which predicts that learning is determined by paradigm complexity and the associative approach which predicts that learning is determined by the cue validity of individual inflections. A computerized picture-choice task probed the comprehension of L2 learners by varying the cues case-marking, noun configuration, and noun animacy. The results demonstrated that learners of Russian use casemarking much earlier than learners of German and that learners of German rely more on animacy to supplement the weaker case-marking cue. In order to further explore the underlying mechanisms of learning, a connectionist model was developed which correctly simulated the obtained results. Together, these findings support the view that adult L2 learning is associative and driven by the validity of cues in the input.




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